After Two Decades, I've Finally Outgrown Mortal Kombat's Violence

After Two Decades, I've Finally Outgrown Mortal Kombat's Violence

It's taken Mortal Kombat X to show me how much I've changed since 1992. See, back then I was in love with a new arcade game they'd just installed in the cinema at Sheffield's Meadowhall shopping centre (this was before the proper arcade was even built). It looked like real life, it sounded incredible in that small, sweaty room and - best of all - it was stupendously violent.

I would go out of my way to play Mortal Kombat as much as possible; I learned all of the fatalities and revelled in their gory glory. I studied all of the lore - I even wrote my own, inventing new situations for existing characters and new characters for existing situations.

I genuinely adored everything Mortal Kombat did - I got giddy with anticipation when Mortal Kombat II finally came to the Amiga, and one of our first purchases on the SNES was that very game (seeing as it had blood this time around, unlike the first SNES version).

After Two Decades, I've Finally Outgrown Mortal Kombat's Violence

Christ, I even liked the film. My dad bought it for my brother and I from Tenerife from some dodgy bloke, and even though you could barely see anything on the pirated VHS, I still watched it to death.

What I'm saying is, Mortal Monday meant something to me. But Mortal Kombat X showed me... it's not my game anymore. Dare I say this? It's... I don't like the violence.

Cassie Cage's X-Ray move, where she thwacks the groin of an opponent with a volleyball dig and you see two testicles explode, is funny. It is. It made me cringe, it made others gasp aloud, but it's funny.

But the rest just don't appeal like they used to. Maybe I'm old, maybe it's the graphical fidelity that puts me off - there's a distinction between the blocky, pixellated, B-movie style spinal cords ripped out of the original Mortal Kombat and seeing someone's internal organs slapped in front of the camera in vivid detail.

Developer Netherrealm's Brian Goodman doesn't think that it goes too far (and neither do I, even though it doesn't appeal to me like it once did): "It's not really a question of too far," he said, "It's more a question of what's right for the game... really it's about finding the right tone and the right feel for the game. We want our fatalities to be really impactful, but we want them to be entertaining - we want them to be something people enjoy, that feels like a real payoff."

They definitely feel like a payoff. But something I enjoy, like a perfectly-executed killing spree in Hotline Miami? No chance.

After Two Decades, I've Finally Outgrown Mortal Kombat's Violence

Mortal Kombat X plays better than 2011's reboot of the series, with combos flowing a lot smoother and clear work put into making it a balanced, accessible - but deep - brawler. The addition of three fighting styles for each character might seem like a retroactive step - we had them all the way back in Deadly Alliance, after all - but they're much more useful this time around. Rather than just being a different stance, weapon or a few special moves, it actually ties in to making your character play how you want them to.

For example, you could have Sub Zero playing as a defensive, ice-trap-laying vagabond, or use Ferra/Torr as the brutal tank he should be (with Ferra standing on the sidelines). It opens up the game to actual strategic play, and will definitely be an interesting concept to toy around with. And, from what I played, it's not just a gimmick - Mortal Kombat X aims itself at the pro fighting game community, offering details like frame rate data in move lists and - though I didn't see it running - an expanded training mode.

Obviously this is still a mass market game at heart, as MK always has been - there's appeal for the button-mashers out there, and the much-lauded story mode from 2011's reboot returns... though with a new story, of course, set some 25 years following the events of the time-travelling reboot.

"Interestingly, story mode wasn't something we talked about a lot with Mortal Kombat in 2011 - it was sort of a sleeper hit," Goodman told me, "It really came to prominence after we launched, it wasn't something we put a lot of focus on. Since then, because it was so popular, we've really made an effort to promote it and make it as great as it can possibly be in Mortal Kombat X." Goodman denied that the choice to move things a quarter of a century into the future was simply to avoid the bewildering canonical goings on that have plagued the MK series for so long, though I do still remember why Cyrax was stuck in the desert in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3...

The challenge tower from last time around has evolved into Living Towers - a series of fights that add modifiers and challenges in a dynamic fashion. One second you're brawling with bombs being dropped on you, the next there's a chance of freezing your opponent while blocking.

After Two Decades, I've Finally Outgrown Mortal Kombat's Violence

It's a fun little mode, and as it will be changing constantly - there are hourly, daily and weekly towers to tackle - there's always going to be something new to hone your skills on in this single-player mode. Another single-player mode with online leanings is the Faction War online meta-game, which offers a 'platform agnostic' experience where many things you do in the normal game contribute to your score.

"It's a connected experience," Goodman explained, "Where players are asked to choose between five factions based on the Mortal Kombat lore. Once you've chosen your faction, many of the things you do are going to add points to your overall faction war total - just by playing the game. Every week we're going to crown a winner, and the highest-scoring faction will be given rewards for the entire faction."

It all points towards a studio doubling down on what made the 2011 reboot of Mortal Kombat so well-received: a focus on tight mechanics, more reasons to come back and play more (aside from online, competitive modes) and a return to the still-unique-for-a-fighting-game involved story mode.

And that all sounds good. And all plays well. And is sure to be received positively by the community hankering for some more freezing, chain-to-the-necking, testicle-punching brawling action. It will make a lot of people laugh too, which is entirely the point.

This time around, though, I'm just not getting the joke. It's taken two decades, but I think I've outgrown Mortal Kombat.

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This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour from the British isles.


Comments

    *opens article* Oh! Woah! Sorry, geez, I should've knocked... I didn't realize you were intellectually masturbating in here. I'll come back later.

      Want to hear my understanding of the ending to Bioshock: Infinite?

        Maybe, but I don't have the 8hrs for your insightful and edgily unconventional analysis. But I can't wait to hear give a world-weary sigh and try to restrain your sense of superiority as you explain why you've finally outgrown pokemon and minecraft.

        Last edited 10/02/15 11:12 am

        If it involves anything other than the misinterpretation of the word "infinite" then no...

        XD

      'Everyone else is super excited for this generally awesome looking video game, but me? *flicks hair* I outgrew this kind of stuff. But you have fun with it.'

    I'm the other way. While single and spending a lot of time with friends enjoying sex and violence (both real and fictional) I was getting a bit over it.

    But these days, I spend hours watching Peppa Pig and Giggle & Hoot with my son so sex & violence is like a breath of fresh air again.

    The grass is always greener...

      Sex, Violence, and ABC4Kids; that Jimmy Giggle gets all the ladies!

        Well apparently he does have a pretty big following in the single mum demographic, bit weird but whatever floats your boat

          A dude who can entertain your kids and then put them to bed ("5 steps to bed time, hoot hoot", anybody?) - what mum wouldn't love that.

    Ugh. Good for you. Maybe we can be friends when I grow up too.

    Not sure where the hate for this article is coming from, as it all seems fair enough to me. It's a decent preview where the author happens to also discuss how the the gore has grown tiresome over 20-odd years.

    You have to admit, the content is pretty extreme, and this is article just a counter-point to articles throughout the franchise history that have reveled in its gore.

      Words matter. 'Outgrown' implies superiority compared to 'have grown tired of'.

        I have outgrown your smug sense of satisfaction Transientmind!

        Er, I mean. I have grown tired of your smug sense of satisfaction Transientmind!

        Precisely. It's the position often taken by people who imply that "they have more important things to worry about".

        Or it just implies that the author has lost interest in the subject as he gets older (matures), you know as the dictionary defines it.

          Also true. However, language being what it is, colloquial use attaches connotations not expressly conveyed in more technical definitions. 'Maturity' is seen as a superior trait independent of the use of maturation as another word for aging. (It's why people are referred to as 'mature for their age'.)

          For most people at a first glance, claiming to have 'outgrown' is far more commonly about the implication that distaste for ludicrous violence is tied to the socially-valued trait of 'maturity' rather than duration and pervasiveness of their exposure.

          But don't read too much into it. My glib comment was a knee-jerk reaction to the surface-level reading.

          The article itself is mostly praise for the game mechanics with some intellectual snobbery about a celebrated, franchise-defining element he doesn't enjoy anymore. It's definitely worthy of an eye-roll and some playful mockery.

          Last edited 10/02/15 12:14 pm

            I am scared of entering a word war with you Transient...

        I'm comfortable with the use of that word. Enjoyment of this level of violence is quite juvenile, and if you've outgrown then you just don't enjoy it as much as someone who can still can. Not a pejorative, just an accurate description.

          I disagree on the point of it as 'accurate'. I reckon if you watch the 'Elders React' video of older ('matured') people playing GTA5 and reveling in their probably-first exposure to high-definition violence, you'll find evidence to disprove your assertion.

          The technical definition of 'outgrown' might not be pejorative, but the colloquial (and from the tone of the article, the intended) use of the word absolutely is.

            I have watched it and thought that their enjoyment was almost child-like in nature. They'd probably outgrow it with repeated exposure. Not sure what point we're trying to make any more. I've outgrown/tired of this argument ;)

            Last edited 10/02/15 12:15 pm

    If 'growing up' means becoming overly pretentious and boring like this article?

    Fuck. That.

    37, almost a Highschool teacher and glad as hell to STILL be enjoying this sort of thing.

    Last edited 10/02/15 12:41 pm

      Looks like someone is trying to be hip with the kids.

        Or you know, not be a dickhead. I enjoy what I enjoy, I like what I like, why pretend I don't? Why pretend to 'grow up' all of a sudden and not be who I am at heart? A false, fake sense of maturity can be just as detrimental as being an immature adult. I'm definitely not immature in my life, but I definitely enjoy things such as this, I lead quite a balanced life in that respect. This article is the biggest load of elitest wankery I've read in ages. Hey sorry if you wrote the article and it offends you, but that's how it reads.

        Last edited 10/02/15 12:54 pm

          How could I have written it if my name is different and I'm making a joke?

            Authors tend to use their real names on articles :P Jokes really don't come across on the internet well, you should know that by now. There was no actual implication of a joke, just a snarky comment. :) But I did say 'if' you wrote it :)

              Come on Weresmurf you always managed to read my sarcasm. What happened to you man, you used to be cool.

                lol ok ok sowwy. But ergh, I'd never try to be 'cool' with todays teens... having worked with grades 7 - 12 already in schools, trying to be 'cool' with that lot would mean first having to drive a six inch spike into my brain...

                  just rock up with your hat on backwards, that's all you needed to be cool back in my day ;)

    "It's got this, it's got that, and all of it's good, but because this is a Kotaku article I have to sound unimpressed with this fighting game."
    At least this pretentious tripe is being called out for what it is.

    I was never much of a fan of MK. Its violence was never anything other than a gimmick to get attention and to cover up the fact that it was far less mechanically sophisticated than most of its contemporaries.

      I think that was kinda slightly true 8 or so iterations ago. Current FGC really embraces stuff like MK9 and Injustice. They're skillful, technical games. It's a really dated viewpoint, to be honest. You should check out MK9, you'd be pleasantly surprised. This is also coming from a massive Street Fighter fanboy,

        I gotta admit, my flirtation with the franchise ended around MK3.

          You'd be surprised how good the modern MK games are. I always enjoyed MK, but knew they felt mechanically inferior to stuff like SF/Tekken/VF, (earlier iterations like MK/MK2) etc. New ones are solid fighters. Well made. The gore is just tradition now, more than anything.

    "They definitely feel like a payoff. But something I enjoy, like a perfectly-executed killing spree in Hotline Miami? No chance."

    That's one of the creepiest things I've read.

    My question is has todays society grown bored with violence or have we seen so much violence that it no longer impacts us as it should

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